LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to send letters to Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislators to push for additional mental health care funding for students.
The supervisors had hoped Los Angeles County would receive a bigger share of a $75 million grant available through the Mental Health Student Services Act, according to a motion by Supervisors Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger. However, large counties are limited to $6 million in funding over four years.
That money would cover partnerships with schools to create campus-based mental health services with the goal of reaching and treating students before their mental health issues become debilitating.
“When you do the math, you realize L.A. County is only being offered one dollar per student per year to meet the mental health needs of a large and diverse student body with everything from campus counselors to suicide prevention training for teachers,” Hahn said.
“That is absolutely not enough. We have more than three times the students than the next largest county in California, and our funding allocation needs to reflect that difference.”
Dr. Jonathan Sherin, who heads the county’s Department of Mental Health, said the programs require work to design, develop, implement and analyze outcomes. Unless the county gets more resources, the cost of administration will outweigh the benefit of the grant.
“These associated departmental burdens are likely to outweigh the added value brought about by the resource itself because they pull staff capacity that is desperately needed for other projects,” Sherin said.
The department already spends roughly $100 million in the county’s 80 school districts, he said.
Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo said students deserve more from the state.
“We’re making progress with our Mental Health Department partners to provide needed resources, but it is truly disappointing to see a cap of $6 million from the state for our 80 districts serving 1.5 million youth — 70% of whom are socioeconomically disadvantaged,” Duardo said. “We will be fighting for our students’ fair share of this critical funding.”